Has anybody ever asked you, “what are you planning to do with that degree?”
Usually this is posed with an undertone of condescension. The person expects your reply to reflect the ‘worthlessness’ of your degree. But the person asking this question usually misunderstands the value of college degrees in general. So let’s take a look at how we’ve evolved, or devolved, to this paradigm (it’s not an article about college until you’ve used the word paradigm).
30-60 years ago, people went to school to study what they loved. And that was that. You weren’t expected to do anything WITH a philosophy degree. It was just a way to culture you, and engage your interests. To learn about your passions, and think critically. But more crucial to your development was your time spent away from class, when you would work a job or two. Working was not only a way to bank a few extra dollars (or back then, cents), but it was a way to learn the things you couldn’t learn in philosophy 101. Things such as: maturity, respect, managerial skills, how to collaborate with others, and of course… work ethic. Nobody complained about their philosophy degree holding them back from jobs and careers. Nor did they insist they return for graduate school to have any chance at a decent salary, or respectable living. People just did their time, got their degree, and accrued enough work experience to be reasonably successful.
Fast forward to the last 20ish years…….
People are still getting philosophy degrees. In fact, more so than ever before. But there’s a problem. The expectations have changed. See, somewhere in the time between I Love Lucy and Breaking Bad, people became fussy and lame. A drastic paradigm shift happened (had to say the p word again, I feel so collegiate). Where students had once maintained that their degree would be unrelated to their ultimate career, they suddenly relied on it for their career.
Of course, students getting diplomas in engineering and the sciences will most definitely obtain careers in those fields. But the philosophy major from the previous paragraph is another story. He’d better make some sales & marketing connections, or else he will spend life on a bench outside of a metro station reciting Socrates to a pigeon. For some reason, 21st century thinking is oblivious to this truth. I’m not sure if this is out of ignorance or narrow-mindedness. It’s pretty evident that people don’t like reading between the lines anymore. Common sense has taken a backseat to single track thinking. In this manner, people like to place the same value on every college degree because it’s just easier that way.
Is it harder to find careers after college nowadays? Yes. But it should be no reason to get you down. Is college morosely expensive? Yes. And if this is your issue then you should either attend a cheaper/smaller college, or make sure you graduate with the most career applicable degree you can get your hands on. People don’t like to make practical or logistically responsible decisions anymore because it’s not the cool thing to do. But sometimes you have to just nut up and do it.
But back to my friend from paragraph 2…
So you got a philosophy degree. Don’t sweat it. At the end of the day, that degree is only a piece of paper. Get over it. You’re you. And you’re probably more life-skilled than you think you are. So stop complaining and follow your grandparents’ example. Be smart, disciplined, and respectful. Especially toward those who have hiring powers. The money will follow.